On the Road to West Concord: Celebrating survival - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

On the Road to West Concord: Celebrating survival

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WEST CONCORD, Minn. (KTTC) -

West Concord is hosting its annual Survival Days celebration from July 22 to 24 -- featuring outdoor events, contests, a parade and more. But Survival Days is about more than just surviving this summer heat.

The three-day festival, always held on the fourth weekend of July, became a tradition after a difficult time in the town's history.

In 1985, West Concord had just celebrated its centennial when Highway 56 was closed for repairs.

"It was a disaster. I'd wash my windows every other day because it was dirt. It was just a dirt road," recalled Beth Hodgman, a former chair of Survival Days.

Highway 56 was only supposed to be closed for a few months. But instead, it was shut down for much longer -- about a year and a half.

"They said it took three months and then they ran into problems. And then winter came. And then they couldn't do anything until spring. Then they tried to fix the problem. They were having a terrible time with it," said Al Gilbert, one of the founders of Survival Days.

Because Highway 56 runs right through the heart of the town, closing it hurt a lot of businesses. Some eventually closed, including a grocery store along Main Street.

"And everyone was concerned about, 'Would West Concord, would the city survive being closed that long?' It was a main vein in and out of town," Hodgman said.

But folks in West Concord hung in there. And when Highway 56 finally reopened, residents wanted to celebrate.

"Throw a big party that we're back in business here. So someone came up with the name, 'Well, let's call it Survival Days' because that's exactly what we did. We survived," said Gilbert.

Thus, the annual tradition was born. Each year, hundreds attend Survival Days -- not just residents, but people from all over.

"It's a great homecoming, actually. A lot of classes that graduated from West Concord when we still had our school, would come back and have class reunions during that time. And then, even if they weren't, we'd still get a lot of people that had moved away come back because it's like visiting with your old neighbors and friends," said Gilbert.

"A lot of community celebrations are -- they're maybe gonna be one-day events now. But I think Survival Days will always stay Survival Days," Hodgman said.

The full schedule of events at Survival Days is below.

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